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Trial of Maine man charged in Alaska cold case murder begins

The trial of a Maine man charged in a cold case murder in Alaska is underway.Steven Downs, 47, is accused of raping, stabbing and shooting Sophie Sergie in 1993 in a bathroom of Downs’ freshman dorm at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.Downs said he is innocent, but prosecutors during Wednesday’s opening arguments put the blame squarely on him, saying DNA found inside Sergie matches Downs.Prosecutors also said that in 2019, investigators found the same type of 22-caliber gun used to kill Sergie in Downs’ Auburn, Maine, home.”He had the gun, he had the knife, he was there, and he remembered everything about this case but why his DNA was inside Sophie Sergie on the night she was murdered,” Alaska Assistant Attorney General John Darnall said.Downs’ defense attorney Jim Howaniec told the jury they would find reasonable doubt.”The state’s case is extremely thin,” Jim Howaniec said.Jim Howaniec said Downs bought the gun found in his Auburn home in 2016.”The ballistics of that gun don’t match,” Jim Howaniec said.He also said that other DNA, fingerprints and male pubic hair in the bathtub where Sergie was found don’t match Downs.Howaniec said a witness saw a man 6 inches shorter than Downs with darker skin and hair leave the bathroom Sergie was killed in at the time of the murder.After a three-year wait since Downs’ arrest and nearly three decades since the crime, prosecutors plan to take six weeks to make their case.

The trial of a Maine man charged in a cold case murder in Alaska is underway.

Steven Downs, 47, is accused of raping, stabbing and shooting Sophie Sergie in 1993 in a bathroom of Downs’ freshman dorm at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

Downs said he is innocent, but prosecutors during Wednesday’s opening arguments put the blame squarely on him, saying DNA found inside Sergie matches Downs.

Prosecutors also said that in 2019, investigators found the same type of 22-caliber gun used to kill Sergie in Downs’ Auburn, Maine, home.

“He had the gun, he had the knife, he was there, and he remembered everything about this case but why his DNA was inside Sophie Sergie on the night she was murdered,” Alaska Assistant Attorney General John Darnall said.

Downs’ defense attorney Jim Howaniec told the jury they would find reasonable doubt.

“The state’s case is extremely thin,” Jim Howaniec said.

Jim Howaniec said Downs bought the gun found in his Auburn home in 2016.

“The ballistics of that gun don’t match,” Jim Howaniec said.

He also said that other DNA, fingerprints and male pubic hair in the bathtub where Sergie was found don’t match Downs.

Howaniec said a witness saw a man 6 inches shorter than Downs with darker skin and hair leave the bathroom Sergie was killed in at the time of the murder.

After a three-year wait since Downs’ arrest and nearly three decades since the crime, prosecutors plan to take six weeks to make their case.

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